2014 was the year of the domain, with new domain name extensions becoming available for the first time. The new gTLDs (top-level domains, like .com, .net or .org) created new online real estate. Location extensions such as .London and .NYC, and more general names – like .Photography and .Expert – changed the web forever, and made it easier for businesses to find a place online to call home.
But what are the key trends set to shape 2015, and what do the next twelve months have in store for those navigating the world of online business for the first time?
Let's take a look at a few of the considerations and trends that online businesses should take into account over the course of this year.
Many businesses have been quick to capitalise on the availability of new TLDs. The new domains offer businesses a big opportunity to define themselves, launch new services or showcase the extent of their offerings.
Companies such as West Ham United Football Club, Fortnum and Mason, Meantime Brewery and Metro Bank were among the first to launch websites using the new .London domain last year, and 2015 will likely see a greater number of businesses, both large and small, look to link their company to physical locations or countries.
2015 is also likely to see a growth in the number of domains a company has – tailoring a company's digital identity to suit numerous audiences. For example, airlines offering trans-Atlantic flights could register domains based on route names, as a landing page for flight bookings.
Optimised for mobile
Last year, smartphones and tablets became the dominant devices for those looking to spend online. With the launch of the iPhone 6 and the continued success of larger devices from other manufacturers, 2014 saw a move away from the smaller phone norm as the phablet grew in prominence.
As phones get larger, it becomes ever easier for consumers to browse and shop online, increasing the need for great looking mobile sites. Leveraging the mobile web doesn't consist solely of an effective UI: geo-referenced business info, a balanced adoption of high-res photos and videos, direct interactions thanks to click-to-call solutions, and social media integration should also be considerations.
The ability to make payments via mobile is also vital, and a professional, trustworthy site is indispensable if you want to convert an accidental visitor into a repeat shopper.
Marketing shift from globalisation to personalisation
Marketing is becoming more regionalised, localised and personalised. The internet has levelled the playing field between small and large businesses – but if David is to keep pace with Goliath, small businesses will need to replicate how the bigger boys manage and market their global brands
Personalisation is not a trend. It is a marketing revolution which will transform how we think about and how we manage global brands. Companies will decentralise their structure and increase regional and local influence.
Small businesses have the chance to benefit from this in 2015. They have speed, passion and urgency. They spot opportunities, can move quickly and explore new ideas, and can create a connection with their local customers that a larger business simply cannot.
- Stefano Maruzzi is VP of EMEA at GoDaddy